Ministry of VSA: Permit requests for medical professionals must meet law criteria
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Ministry of VSA: Permit requests for medical professionals must meet law criteria

Minister Emil Lee Minister Emil Lee

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Minister of VSA Emil Lee has expressed concern from a recent media broadcast that suggested that the Ministry is not being pro-active in the recruitment of a psychiatrist for the Mental Health Foundation. 

Minister Lee took the opportunity to clarify that it is not the role of the Ministry to source or find medical professionals for institutions. The Ministry of VSA has two specific roles; from a public health and policy perspective, the Ministry ensures that the quality and standards of care are sufficient; the Ministry also has a regulatory function, which the Inspectorate executes. 

The Mental Health Foundation is one of our local health care institutions currently facing challenges with the recruitment of qualified health care professionals. The Ministry of VSA is in ongoing consultation with the MHF regarding their recruitment process, obstacles and the permitting procedures. 

The MHF has made known to the Ministry that their financial conditions pose an additional challenge in the recruitment of qualified professionals that meet the standards of Sint Maarten laws. 

“We have historically done everything we can to facilitate the Mental Health Foundation. We recognize the value of mental health, especially after hurricane Irma. Post-Irma, the Ministry was contacted with a donation for three vehicles, to which the Ministry in turn made the donation to the Mental Health Foundation. At the time the foundation was leasing vehicles at a sum of around USD$ 25.000,- per year. The donation was made in recognition of their financial need, in an effort to help them save money. Another action of the Ministry is that the request of the MHF for a new building is being reviewed to see if it can be a project funded by the World Bank. We are doing this because we recognize that they have issues with their current building size and structure.” - Emil Lee, Minister of VSA

The Ministry does recognize the indicated need by the MHF and a proposed solution to the MHF has been to seek out health care professionals from the EU or BIG registered countries. 

This approach could yield more suitable candidates, with a higher chance of meeting the criteria of Sint Maarten laws. It is often the case that institutions seek out more economically beneficial recruitment routes; however, the Ministry stands firm in its obligation to process requests within the confines of the law.

An example of some of the criteria of the application process:

-        Have to be registered with the licensing authority in the country that they are currently practicing

-        Education equivalent to Dutch standard

-        Letter of good medical conduct (not older than 3 months)

The Ministry of VSA has the responsibility to adhere to legislation as it pertains to registering health care professionals to practice and service the population of Sint Maarten. 

This is governed by the national ordinance regulating the execution of healthcare which outlines the conditions and criteria of health care professionals willing to serve on Sint Maarten. In order for the Ministry to serve the population, especially on matters such as health care, it cannot be careless and must ensure that permits are granted based on screening protocols set by law, for public safety.

The Ministry often sees requests for permits that simply do not meet the criteria’s set in our laws. While it is always the mission to work within the boundaries of the law, when facts are presented that do not allow us to move forward within our legal limits, permits are not granted. These outcomes are discussed with our stakeholders and we trust that they share our interest in not only compliance to the laws, but the commitment to public safety. 

“I am bound by the laws that are in place for our country. We struggle sometimes with finding the balance and this is why we are working on our Sint Maarten BIG registry, our registration requirements and how we can improve our process. But in the meantime, we need to find the balance in flexibility and ease as well as the quality and public safety.”    

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